6 Die in Philippine Military Helicopter Crash

Marielle Lucenio and Jeoffrey Maitem
2021.06.24
Manila
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6 Die in Philippine Military Helicopter Crash An Air Force S-76A Sikorsky helicopter crashed on Basilan Island, southern Philippines, while en route to airlift troops wounded in a suicide bombing on Jolo Island, Sept. 16, 2020.
Lantawan Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office via AP

The Philippine Air Force grounded its fleet of newly acquired Black Hawk helicopters after one of them crashed during a night-training flight, killing all six onboard, the military and the defense department said Thursday.

The S-70i Black Hawk chopper went down during a training mission on Wednesday evening near the Crow Valley in Capas, a town in northern Pampanga province, about 100 km (62 miles) north of the capital Manila, officials said. The area is a frequent training site for the military. 

The crash was the latest in a series of crashes of helicopters in the Philippine military and police fleets dating to early 2020 – most of them resulting in fatalities.

“We at the Department of National Defense extend our deepest sympathies to the families of the three pilots and three airmen of an S-70i … helicopter of the Philippine Air Force who perished when their [aircraft] crashed,” Delfin Lorenzana, the Philippine defense chief, said in a statement. 

“In the meantime, the entire Blackhawk fleet is grounded while the incident is being investigated,” he said. 

Search and retrieval operations were continuing on Thursday, according to Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Maynard Mariano who declined to release the names of those killed, pending results of a full investigation. 

“Their identities will be provided as soon as the members of their families are properly notified. We grieve for the loss,” he said. 

“Although with inherent risks, this competency is vital and necessary for the transport and logistics requirements of Unified Commands,” Mariano said. 

The S-70i Black Hawk helicopters, the newest aircraft of the PAF, were built by Poland’s PZL Mielec.

The government ordered 16 helicopters and received five earlier this month to go with six that were delivered in November 2020 for the Air Force modernization program. A military official said the helicopter that crashed was one of six delivered last year, according to the state-run Philippine News Agency. 

The crash occurred nearly two months after an Air Force MG-520 attack helicopter, made by McDonnell Douglas in the United States, plunged in the waters off Bohol Island in the central Philippines, leaving its pilot dead and three others injured.  

In January, seven soldiers died when their helicopter, a refurbished UH-1H Vietnam-era craft commonly known as a Huey, went down in the mountains of Bukidnon, a province in the southern Philippines. 

In September 2020, an Air Force helicopter used as an air ambulance crashed en route to the southern island of Jolo, leaving four crew members dead. Two months earlier, four soldiers were killed when their Huey chopper crashed after takeoff in the northern province of Isabela. 

In March 2020, the country’s police chief and three police generals were among eight people injured when their Bell 429 helicopter crashed near Manila.

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